Sunday, November 30, 2008


I am thrilled to share the wonderful news that my mentor, friend, and editor Lee Bennett Hopkins has won the 2009 National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children.

To me, Lee is the heart of today's children's poetry. Lee has a passion for creating anthologies that are both accessible and necessary; that feature well loved and important poetic voices; and that introduce new, and with his magical touch, up and coming children's poets.

I am fortunate to be one of those unknown children's poets that Lee discovered in the slush. Some years ago I sent Lee five of my best poems. He wrote back that he wished he had received my poems earlier because one of my poems would have been perfect for the collection he had just sent to the printer. I was honored and crushed all at the same time.

Fast-forward a year or so later to the SCBWI Los Angeles Summer Conference where I went up to Lee after he had inspired a room of children's writers in a break-out session. To my surprise Lee read my name tag and said, "Jill Corcoran....of course I remember you. Why haven't you been sending me poetry?"

After quite a few rejected poems and the best part, working with Lee to revise a poem in which he saw a germ of an idea, Lee selected my poem PIRATES to be included in his forthcoming MG Holiday House collection, I AM THE BOOK, 2011.

Lee is a gift to children, teachers, parents and writers. We are all blessed by his generosity, creativity and wisdom.

To truly understand how Lee Bennett Hopkins has influenced children's poetry, please read Sylvia Vardell's post More on LBH and the 2009 NCTE Poetry Award. Thank you Sylvia for letting us all know as soon as you heard at NCTE that Lee had won.

Here are some of my favorite Lee Bennett Hopkins anthologies:

Lee, as you said to me I now wish back to you....HAPPY DAYS AHEAD!

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Thank you Kristin Nelson for your informative blog, Pub Rants 
and your monthly newsletter. From today's newletter: 

WHAT’S HOT by Kristin Nelson:
"If you write for the adult market, you might want to consider if your voice and talent will work for the children’s market. Seriously. With the announcement at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that they are suspending acquisitions, there’s a lot of volatility in the adult book trade market."
However, the children’s realm is holding steady (although, according to the children’s booksellers, the shelves are getting a little crowded). What do editors want? Every single editor I talked to would love to see a middle grade fiction project. And if it’s something that will appeal to boys, well, that’s one hot ticket.

Click here to read the newsletter where I discovered this upbeat news.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Many writers are multi-talented and can write in a variety of genres. Yet, there is a strong school of thought that advises writers to BRAND themselves, to establish a writing persona. In short, writers provide readers with 'expected' material, and in turn, readers keep coming back for more. Conclusion: Branding leads to loyal readers which leads to stronger sales.

When I was earning my MBA in Marketing and Finance at the University of Chicago, I learned that branding was a strong component of successful marketing. Later in my years at Leo Burnett Advertising, LA Gear, Mattel and in my own company, LAUNCH! New Product Marketing, branding was a goal for each product and for the company as a whole. One of my favorite books on the topic is Al Ries and Jack Trout's POSITIONING: THE BATTLE FOR YOUR MIND.

Today, editor turned agent Chip MacGregor posted about Branding for Writers. I think in this increasingly competitive book environment, MacGregor's post is a good primer for writers and illustrators alike. Enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2008


Cheryl Klein, Senior Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books/ Scholastic, wrote a wonderful blog post on how she writes flap copy. Through detailed explanation and a step-by-step revision of the actual flap copy for Sara Lewis Holmes' (go Sara go!) newest MG, OPERATION YES, Cheryl shares her thought process and editorial skills.

Now, I know most of us won't be writing our own flap copy but many of us have written or will be writing queries, and Cheryl's advice on flap copy doubles as a post on tips for writing queries.

In her post, Cheryl writes:
All of the previous paragraph also applies to query letters, by the way, with the exception that you should know enough about the literary tastes of the specific editor/agent to whom you're appealing that you have a decent idea of what would attract him or her, and you write that accordingly.

So click on over to Cheryl's post. Not only will you receive great advice on query writing, but you'll get a preview of Holmes' forthcoming and much anticipated book, OPERATION YES. Holmes' debut MG, LETTERS FROM RAPUNZEL received rave reviews:

Saturday, November 22, 2008


From the generous editors at Dutton Children's Books: A Quick Lesson in Writing a Picture Book

Aspiring authors often ask us, “What common mistakes do you see in submissions?” It seems that few people attempting to write picture book texts really understand how they work. It isn’t as easy as it may appear. We recommend that you read many published picture books aloud before you try writing one. As you turn the pages, take note of how the words and pictures play off of one another. It is crucial that picture book writers use as few words as possible and allow the artwork to do 50% of the storytelling. Too much dialogue or description is deadly. No one wants to read a picture book in which the illustrations show only talking heads.
You don’t need to be an illustrator, nor should you try to find one—that’s the publisher’s job. But it helps to think visually as you are writing. Is there enough varied action to make for interesting illustrations? Think of the picture book as a short animated film.
Once you have gotten your story down on paper, take the time to create a turning dummy for a 32-page picture book, which is the standard format. The story should begin on page 5, a right hand page, and end on page 32, a left hand page. There should be a different scene or action on every spread. Surprises and punch lines should come after the turn of a page. You have about three spreads to introduce your character and set up the situation. The scenes in the middle are for the ups and downs the character experiences. The scenes should build on one another to a climax around spread 24-25 or 26-27, and you have two or three spreads for a satisfying resolution. In many picture books page 32 provides a humorous wink to the reader, or a twist ending, or a postscript of some kind.
Most of the time, if your manuscript does its job well, you will not need to provide any instructions for an illustrator. We want the artist to be able to approach your text with his or her own creative ideas. If the art is supposed to portray the opposite of what the text says, you can make that clear in your cover letter.
Other things to keep in mind:
o Straight prose is preferable to rhyme
o Picture books needn’t teach a lesson
o Stories should be pitched to ages 6 and under
o Keep it short!
We hope you find these general guidelines helpful.
For more tips on writing as well as Dutton editors' submission guidelines and editorial interests, click here.
Please note that the submissions guidelines have not been updated for awhile and some of the editors listed are no longer with Dutton.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Favorite Poetry Read Alouds

This collection of 15 eerily illustrated poems features vipers and vultures to panthers and eels. Poets include: John Gardner, Eve Merriam, Maxine Kumin, Ogden Nash, Russell Hoban, Lord Alfred Douglas, Mary Ann Hoberman, Hilaire Belloc, Robert Oliver, Karla Kuskin, Valerie Worth, Dick King-Smith, John Gardner, D. H. Lawrence, and William Jay Smith.

How can children not fall in love with poetry when they are read STRIPPERS while staring at a double-page full-bleed Zahares illustration of toothy piranhas, close-up and looking like they are coming to get you. 

       by Dick King-Smith
If you fall into a river that's full of Piranha,
They'll strip off your flesh like you'd skin a banana.
There's no time for screaming, there's no time for groans.
In forty-five seconds you're nothing but bones.

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is over at Brimstone Soup!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


"Nearly all wholesalers expect children's books to be strong this year" ...tough to read that quote without doing a double-take. But that is what wholesalers told Publishers Weekly a couple of days ago. I hope the wholesales got this one right.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


This little guy is floating around in an ocean near you, RIGHT NOW!
Look what I found while googling for story-starters. Love this site for cool pics and facts. This cutie pie is a Piglet Squid.The following info is from a short press release provided by the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium when they found this little tyke.

Piglet Squid, Helicocranchia pfefferi

This funny looking squid is about the size of a small avocado and can be found most commonly in the deepwater (greater than 100 m or 320 ft) of virtually all oceans. Its habit of filling up with water and the funny location of its siphone with a wild-looking 'tuft' of eight arms and two tentacles had prompted scientists to name it the piglet squid.

The body is almost totally clear revealing a dark mass that is the internal organs and barely visible, feather-like gills. Pigment organs dot the surface of the skin. In the picture a row of these 'chromatophores' provide a smile-like look. There are two small finst at the opposite end of the body from the head. Very little known of its biology. It has been observed from submersibles in the head down oriengation, but no one is sure why. It is a sluggish swimmer with ammonium ions in its body fluid that help keep it bouyant. A large light producing organ (photophore) is located beneath each of its large eyes.

I live about 20 minutes from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. I have got to pack up the kids and go see this little guy.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Favorite Poetry Read Alouds
I am finally joining the fabulous blogathon known as POETRY FRIDAY!

My twist: I am going to blog about my favorite poetry books for teachers, librarians, and parents to read aloud to children.

As I mentioned in one of my previous Poetry in the Classroom posts, it is easier to keep a child or a class of students engaged in poetry when we read from fully illustrated books. By holding up a beautiful illustration, it will keep students' eyes on you and help them connect more of their senses with the poem and/or lesson.

Every poem and every poet letter in this book is a gift to children and adults alike.

Today I want to highlight WONDERFUL WORDS: POEMS ABOUT READING, WRITING, SPEAKING, AND LISTENING, compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Karen Barbour.

In this stunning book, 15 poets share their creative vision on topics ranging from Finding a Poem to The Period. Poets include: Emily Dickinson, Eve Merriam, Pat Mora, David McCord, Ann Whitford Paul, Tom Robert Shields, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Rebecca Kia Dotlich, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Karla Kuskin, Nikki Grimes, Alice Shertle, Heidi Roemer, Carl Sandburg and Richard Armour.

In the summer of 2007, Lee Bennett Hopkins read Pat Mora's WORDS FREE AS CONFETTI to 1,000 children's writers at the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference. We all sat in awe, not only of the words floating into our collective souls but the delightful illustration that made our hearts sing. This collection is a treat for children as young as first grade as well as students in high school and beyond.

So far, two more books have grown out of WONDERFUL WORDS:
  • In February, 2009, Ann Whitford Paul's poem WORLD BUILDER will be published by Simon & Schuster as a picture book.
  • And in 2011, Holiday House will publish another of Bennett's collections, I AM THE BOOK, named for Tom Robert Shield's poem by the same name and included in WONDERFUL WORDS. My poem, PIRATES, will be one of the 14 poems Bennett is including in I AM THE BOOK.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Yat-Yee Chong for this week's Poetry Friday Round-Up.

Monday, November 10, 2008


One of my favorite books for writers, teachers, students and lovers of children's poetry is SEEING THE BLUE BETWEEN: ADVICE AND INSPIRATION FOR YOUNG POETS, compiled by the great Paul B. Janeczko.

This book is a must have and the perfect gift book. In SEEING THE BLUE BETWEEN, 32 of today's finest children's poets write a letter to the reader addressing a question Janeczko received from countless children, "How can I become a better writer?". Each poet also includes 1 -3 of their favorite poems.

By the way, the title of the book, SEEING THE BLUE BETWEEN, is taken from Kristine O'Connell George's spectacular poem by the same name. Kristine was my first children's poetry teacher at UCLA Extension and the person who inspired me to write poetry for children.

Click through the book's Table of Contents!  This who's who of children's poets makes me giddy knowing I can curl up with their wealth of wisdom, generosity of spirit, and their wonderful, wonderful words.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


Now this is more like it! A more positive outlook for the children's book biz out of the mouth's of children's booksellers. Again I say, BUY MORE BOOKS!

Plus, from Editorial Anonymous on Nov. 14, 2008: 

Question from a reader: 
How will the economy affect children's publishing? What's the climate like?

Nervous. Children's books are a bright spot for many publishers, though, and historically books fare better in economic downturns than more expensive entertainment (like movie tickets). So while we're all keeping a weather eye on the economy, we aren't building bonfires and discussing the end of publishing as we know it (I mean, not more than we normally do).

Friday, November 7, 2008


Want to know why the book biz seems to be imploding? Click below for an editor's wise words.

Editorial Ass: C[r]ash Flow (Or What Went Wrong in October in Book Publishing)

Want to help the book biz get back on it's feet? BUY MORE BOOKS!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


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